Ayanna Nahmias, Editor-in-ChiefLast Modified: 12:32 p.m. EDT, 23 January 2013
OXNARD, California - This past year has been tough on women, especially for those who have taken a brave and public stand like Malalai Yousafzai, a young Pakistani teenager who recently survived an assassination attempt and continues to live under a death threat simply because she advocated for education for girls in her country.
In the United States, a country with far more progressive women’s rights legislation than some nations, women are still subject to unequal treatment, physical abuse, and verbal castigation as in the case of Sandra Fluke.
In 29 February 2012, Fluke was called a “slut” and a “prostitute” by a conservative talk-show host Rush Limbaugh in response to the Georgetown University Law Center student’s speech the previous week to House Democrats in support of mandating insurance coverage for contraceptives.
To add insult to injury, this past election cycle revealed a concerted effort by politicians and other far right factions to dismantle the legislative gains women have achieved in this country. In 1963, author, Betty Friedan published her book, “The Feminine Mystique.” She discovered that most housewives were unhappy with their lives in which they were relegated to cooking and cleaning, while the men provided.
Although, opportunities for women has expanded beyond the domiciliary confines; there are still many impediments to women achieving equality in both the work place and society in general. Globally, women continue to encounter difficulties in achieving economic and social equality.
According to the White House Project, nearly 18% of women occupy top leadership positions compared to 82% of men. In fact, “among Fortune 500 companies, women constitute only 3% of the CEOs, 6% of the top paying positions and 16% of the corporate officers. Among Fortune 500 companies, women account for 15% of the board members; 13% of these companies have no women on their boards.
The leadership pipeline exists – women make up 48% of the labor force and 51% of all management/administrative/professional positions – but progress beyond this point is stalled and has been for the past three years. The wage gap widens as women age and move up the ladder into management. Women make only 78% percent of what men make – an improvement of less than half a penny a year since 1963 when The Equal Pay Act was signed. African-American women make 64% and Hispanic women make 52% of what white men make. (Source: The White House Project)
Today, many American youth look for role models in the sports and entertainment industries. Young girls are more likely to identify with a movie star, singer, or television personality, than a female CEO or other executive. As an example, in the 2013 January issue of GQ magazine, Beyoncé Knowles graced the cover for a feature article about the state of feminism in Western society. Posing in a small pair of shorts, a cropped and revealing man’s shirt that almost exposed her breasts; this was the image that the editors chose to entice readers to purchase the magazine.
Published: 23 January 2013 (Page 2 of 2)
Sex sells; however, this obviously transparent appeal to its reader’s libido under the guise of exploring the state of feminism today is nothing short of crass. In reading the Knowles’ interview, one wonders why she would have chosen to dress so provocatively while discussing a topic as serious as women’s rights, cultural and sexual bias, and the state of feminism.
Gloria Steinem and others would not have chosen to present themselves in a manner that is obviously antithetical to the cause of being taken seriously as a human being, and not just as an empty vessel sex symbol.
In terms of economic prowess and success, Knowles inhabits a rarefied world of top echelon entertainment earners. But, her GQ interview could have been an opportunity to do more than pay lip service to feminism.
In fact her attire on the cover of the magazine, as well as her dress in music videos and while on tour, belies the pro-feminist sentiment she presented in her interview. This obvious dichotomy is part of the reason she is probably successful, but is it an appropriate stance for a woman who millions of young women desire to emulate?
Only Knowles can be the arbiter of her actions and their impact on young women, because in the end it is her life, and her legacy, and any judgment by others would likely be viewed as envy versus circumspection.
Which brings us to the most recent and egregious example of unequal rules governing the lives of men versus women.
In Oxnard, California, Stacie Halas, 32, a middle-school science teacher was fired from her job after it was discovered that she performed in pornographic films during an eight-month period from 2005 to 2006 because of financial problems after her boyfriend abandoned her.
Halas had successfully overcome her past and was by all accounts performing admirably as a teacher. Despite this, she was unceremoniously dismissed and subsequently brought suit against Haydock Intermediate School for wrongful dismissal.
Her lawyer, Richard Schwab said Tuesday. "I think she's representative of a lot of people who may have a past that may not involve anything illegal or anything that hurts anybody.” (Source: Huffington Post)
This is not to say that men do not suffer the repercussions of bad sexual conduct, as in the high-profile case of former President Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky. Whereas Clinton was subjected to impeachment proceedings and public humiliation, Lewinsky was vilified as a “slut” and a “home wrecker,” and subsequently moved out of the country.
Though the discovery of these pornographic videos of Halas on the website may indeed pose a problem for her continued effectiveness in teaching minors; firing her for past indiscretions when many men have been caught in equally compromising position or had sordid pasts revealed without suffering commiserate punishment is hypocritical.
Examples abound, like former D.C. Mayor, Marion Barry, who was caught with a prostitute while smoking crack cocaine, but after a brief incarceration was allowed to resume his political career. Or more recently, former governor of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger, who fathered a child, Joseph Baena, with his housekeeper who continued to work for the family until the revelation of the affair when the boy was 15 years old.
Though these are not one-to-one comparisons, they are yet another example of justice unequally rendered, and reminiscent of the racist rational of Jim Crow laws which enforced the political hypocrisy of "separate but equal."Follow Nahmias Cipher Report on Twitter Twitter: @nahmias_report Editor: @ayannanahmias Return to Page 1 »